Darfur displaced demand justice

Published: Sunday 30 September 2007

-- (Credit: AMERICA ABROAD MEDIA)Victims of the Darfur genocide in Sudan, alongwith a few action groups and legal experts, recently demanded that environmental crimes committed during the mass killings also be accounted for and the perpetrators be tried in an international court.

They demanded that the International Criminal Court (icc) in the Hague, the Netherlands, look into man-made environmental crimes committed by the Sudanese government-supported Arab Janjaweed militia, against non-Arab farmers. The mass killings have displaced around two million people and caused an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 deaths. These atrocities had involved environmental crimes like contamination of water supply and destruction of crops. "Government thinks that if they burn villages, destroy trees and create water shortages, people will move away because of hunger and thirst to make way for the Arabs," said Khalil, an internally displaced person (idp). In the same vein, Yasir, from a camp in El Fashir, said, "It [government] supported people who destroyed our villages and our shallow wells, and burnt our crops."

In 2005, the un had asked icc to investigate the Darfur genocide. Inquiry unearthered many testimonies similar to Kalil and Yasir's. Following this, the icc issued warrants against two men, giving details of human and war crimes but no mention was made of the deliberate destruction of trees, crops, pastures and wells. Beatrice Le Fraper Du Hellen, head of the icc jurisdiction, complementarity and cooperation division, said it would be difficult to gather evidence of these crimes. "We will have to prove the intent behind the contamination of wells and burning of fields."

The un secretary general Ban Ki-Moon had recently said that reasons for the genocide were not just ethnic disputes but also environmental and ecological problems. The conflict began with an ecological crisis, arising, at least in part, from climate change, Moon said. But idps have dismissed this argument as a way to mask the truth behind the heinous crimes committed by the Sudanese government.

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